Swords and sorcery in 1920s Oklahoma.
Mayor Reverend Parsons had been a known socialist before Iska had come to Earth, and now he ruled with a stern but giving hand. There wasn't much room for institutionalized capitalism in Oklahoma at this point, but that didn't mean that markets didn't thrive in the city. Trade routes ran throughout the Central Free Lands, extending from Indian territories to the West, to Texas to the South, and to Atlanta in the East.
Like what was left of America, Oklahoma grew or raised most of its food locally, but still had to purchase grains from the elves -- from what had once been American farms. It was humiliating, but it was also bartering: the Elves needed oil for their farming equipment (which they had grudgingly adopted to keep up with Progress) and Oklahoma City had more oil than it knew what to do with.
So Parsons ruled. Having control of both what had been left of the U.S. army stationed in the state, as well as local militias and police forces, the Reverend supplemented his power with a vast network of spies and informants. There were a lot of immigrants to the area: Americans escaping the North Elven plains, Americans from the West unhappy with Indian rule, as well as a vast catalog of Iskans that had come: Elves unsatisfied with the other Elves, Iskan humans looking for adventure as well as others just looking for peace, and of course the requisite ogres, kobolds, and various wizarding communities. There were few Goblins or Orcs -- goblins tended to the areas around Michigan and Ohio, where there were manufacturing jobs, and Orcs gravitated toward the South, and Appalachia, where they worked in coal mines and guarded the fragile boundaries of the Rid.
With this, there were a lot of different loyalties in the Oklahoma City area, and while Parsons did not turn back those in need, the fact was he needed these refugees as well: the ogres and kobolds for instance to work in the oil fields, and the Iskan forces and wizards to help in keeping the detente with the Elves, and also to the South with the somewhat trustworthy but also power hungry Texan Rangers.
Reverend Parsons had created an autonomy here, and he hoped to keep it that way.
Once Parsons had seen Delilah's photos, he was very frank. "I've known about the tower for quite some time. What's important though is what is in the tower: a wizard of great renown."
Huck nodded, throwing a glance at Commander Franklin and his men, who stood guard around the Reverend here in the mayor's underground office.
"But it isn't simple. The wizard is what they call a 'lich', an undead creature, something that was so intent on living, that it continued to live after it died. Do you understand, Huck?"
"I think so, sir," said Huck.
Parsons smiled. The reverend tended to have a grim look on his face even when he expressed happiness -- whether it was because of the nature of his responsibilities or what lay in his heart, Huck did not know. Huck's family and Parsons' family had known each other for a long time, but when Parsons had agitated for socialist policies after the turn of the century, Huck's coal magnate father -- who had made and lost his fortune by marrying an Indian woman just to get the rights to sell coal to the railroads out of Indian territory -- had been none too pleased with the family "friend". Huck, who was born of another woman prior to his father's taking of his convenient Indian bride, and whom had always considered his own father a cold, intolerable fool -- had always kept close with the reverend -- despite his own atheism -- and when Parsons had seized control of Oklahoma City, Huck automatically had a job. But Huck sometimes felt he just didn't know Parsons anymore.
Parsons turned and went to his desk, picking up an envelope. "I need you to deliver a message to the wizard, who, from my understanding, is called 'The Good Lich'."
"I'll do my best, sir," said Huck.
"And Delilah too, of course," Parsons added.
"What?" asked Huck. "She's just a kid."
"I know that, Huck. I do. But we need her camera again. I need a photo of the lich and his tower. I need to know what we're dealing with here."
"Taking a recon of this place is one thing," argued Huck. "Landing and going in there -- that's something else."
"I understand that," said Parsons. "You'll be rewarded. And I promise you, if there was any other way to get a message to the Good Lich as fast as the plane, I would do it. I don't want to put you and Delilah in harm's way. But I have to."
Huck gritted his teeth. "Okay," he said. "When do we leave?"
"First light," said Parsons. "I need the Lich's answer as soon as possible."
Huck nodded his head and tried to smile. "Okay," he said. "We'll do it."
Parsons took Huck's hand and shook it. "Thank you my friend. You won't regret it. I promise. And Huck?"
"I may be a religious man, but that doesn't mean I can't hate the elves for what they did and continue to do to our people. I know nothing we can do will bring your wife back, but we can at least prevent such from happening again."
Huck grimaced this time. "Okay," he agreed, though he didn't believe Parson's last words.
When Huck got home and told Delilah the news, she was both excited and scared.
"Yeah?" he responded.
"We really gonna do this?"
"Yup," he said.
"What if we run into another gryphon rider?"
"I don't think we will," he said.
"But what if we do anyway?"
"I don't know, Del. But I really don't think we will. I'm more worried about the Good Lich."
"I've never seen magic," said Delilah.
"I have," said Uncle Huck. "During the war. It's amazing -- but terrible."
"Have you seen folks killed by it?"
"It was always so beautiful, in the fairy tales I read as a kid."
"I miss beautiful things," said Delilah.